Inspired by The Dalles Mountain Ranch Road for the 2014 Plein Air Show.
Cobalt Blue Beads
She closed her eyes and turned her face to the west wind. It hit her hard, then slid across her cheek like a lover’s caress. Leaning back against the trunk of the oak tree, she sighed.
This was the old way. To come to the place of her beginning. To await the passing of her spirit from this world.
The old way. Her way.
The shrill cry of the eagle cut through the air, startling her. She looked up. Soaring high above her, the bright white of its head contrasted against the brilliant blue of the summer sky. Majestic. Powerful.
This was her spirit guide. Come to help her finish her journey.
She gazed across the golden yellow hills that rolled away towards the snow covered mountain. Wy’east.
It had been a guiding beacon for her life; Mount Hood.
Closer. The mighty river, Columbia. Nch’i-Wa’na.
Windswept white caps played a game of tag as they raced east against the current. East, towards the morning sun.
She thought she saw the brown humped backs of Wahtonka. Buffalo. Silhouetted on the distant hills.
Have they come to see me off?
She rubbed her eyes and squinted to get a better look. No. It was only a clump of scrub- oak and rocks.
The buffalo were gone. Passed on. Long ago.
Mr. Coyote, “the trickster” came to tease her with thoughts of sweet purple huckleberries and warm starchy camas root. She had no time left for tricks. She reached out her hand and gathered up a rock to toss at him. He was not there.
So many that have passed on before her.
Celilo Falls, named for the sound of the falling water. Just over that hill. There since the beginning of time.
Now gone. With it went the salmon.
She slowly reached into her leather belt pouch and pulled out a small strand of beautiful cobalt blue beads. She rolled the beads back and forth between her fingers, comforted by their smooth, cool, round shape.
A circle. Her life.
The beads had been a gift from her husband. Traded for the last of their beaver skins one winter.
He too was gone. Gone. Following his spirit guide, Salmon, down the river.
Now there would be no one left to bury her. No one except the Creator himself. She was the last “old one” to go.
The buffalo were coming closer.
The eagle called out her name.
It was time.
The wind blew. The sun was warm. Her body was cold. One last gaze at this land from where she had been born. The earth that she loved. The earth where she would now return.
One final breath.
Her eyes closed.
Soaring high above the still body of an old woman, the eagle cried out, then pushed its mighty wings against the power of the wind. It flew towards the setting sun. In its talons dangled a single strand of cobalt blue beads.